Seventh heaven

The Jerusalem Music Center expands its musical horizons.

November 3, 2016 22:34
The Alexander Trio

The Alexander Trio. (photo credit: PR)

The Jerusalem Music Center (JMC) at Mishkenot Sha’ananim has been a major hub of classical music endeavor for more than four decades and has provided the local and, indeed, global classical music scene with some dazzling talents.

But as we all know, no art form can afford to stick to its original guns and, by definition, has to evolve and to stretch its roots and tendrils into new areas of artistic expression in order to retain its vibrancy and viability. The JMC has certainly been enthusiastically on board the evolutionary bandwagon and, in recent years, has embraced a wide range of disciplines outside its original purview, including jazz and ethnic music.

That eclectic ethos will come across in the Seven on Seven series of concerts, which kicks off on November 6 with the Haydn Haydn date, which will feature the Alexander Trio performing several of the eponymous composer’s piano trios.

All told, there are eight concerts in the series, which runs through to June of next year. The series will be overseen by polymath musicologist, composer and conductor Prof.

Michael Wolpe, who has a propensity for spreading his seasoned wings across all manner of musical climes.

So it comes as no surprise to note the broad swathe of sonic territory that will be covered in the upcoming season.

The second item in the Seven on Seven offering, on December 2, takes us farther afield, into the world of theater and literature, with the There’s Room to Just Dream concert. It features composer-pianist Israel Sharon, viola player and JMC general director Gadi Abadi and guitarist Hanan Feinstein, who will play original material inspired by 16th-century Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes’s classic novel Don Quixote.

Narrator Ruth Rosen will add another dimension to the performance.

Director of Programs of the Jerusalem Music Centre Uri Dror, whose impressive resume includes a stint at the helm of the Young Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (YIPO), which is based at the JMC, and is an acclaimed violinist, is happy to go with the flow, regardless of whether that takes him along well-trodden pathways or out well beyond the mainstream pale.

“I appreciate conservatism,” he declares. “I don’t think one should oppose it. I just believe that we need something else too, otherwise things are very limited.”

Dror is keenly aware of the need to bring in ever-widening consumer hinterlands.

“The listening public is diminishing, like the Dead Sea,” he adds with a laugh. “I think we should be aiming for more. Classical music is my life, and I think it is wonderful music. But as a musician, I think that our entire community of musicians has to ensure that it grows and blossoms and develops.”

While orchestras around the world continue to proffer works by the great composers of the 18th and 19th centuries and earlier, Dror feels that he and his fellow professionals have to not only deliver polished performances of works by the likes of Beethoven, Mozart and Tchaikovsky but also to search for new avenues of expression, new works and new formats for presenting popular material, as well as more challenging contemporary works, in order to keep the audiences’ interest suitably piqued.

“The world is changing. Culture is changing. I don’t like the concept of making things ‘accessible’ because I don’t think our audiences, nor ourselves the musicians, are handicapped. I don’t see it that way.

But I do see the need to connect with reality and with people and to realize that what was suitable 20, 30 or 40 years ago is probably not appropriate today or may just suit a handful of people. I want to access more people, including people who either are not into classical music or are not cognizant of the full range of classical music,” he says.

Dror’s line of directorial attack follows both professional and streetlevel lines.

“I tried to think about how to present the music in a more amenable way,” he continues. “I thought about what bothers me personally when I go to a concert. I thought that if there are aspects that bother me as a musician, they would irritate nonmusicians even more. I thought about the length of the pieces in a concert, the very clear demarcation lines between the artists on the stage and the audience, and how we have to listen to the music in complete silence.

I thought about how to build bridges to the audience so that the audience can access the music.”

Dror wants to shake things up, but he is not looking to start a revolution.

“I don’t want to change the music or the essence. But I do want people to be able to get to know classical music and to enjoy it and connect with it,” he explains.

Seven on Seven is certainly pushing the boat out in almost every direction.

Each concert will be followed by a bow tie-loosening chat with one of the performers after the concert. After the first slot, for example, educatorwriter Zvi Tzari will enlighten those who stay for the talk about the life of Haydn and other composers.

Meanwhile, the March 5 encounter between classical composer, pianist, arranger and educator Menachem Wiesenberg and Arabic music violinist, oud player and educator Taiseer Elias, the title of which includes the intriguing declaration “Make a New Middle East,” will be complemented by Elias’s thoughts about the place of Arabic music in the expansive milieu of contemporary music.

“We don’t know exactly what will happen at these sessions,” says Dror.

“We have not planned them down to the finest details. They will be completely open to interaction with the audience.”

Possibly the most compelling slot on the season roster, certainly in terms of extemporaneous format, is the Magician Produces a Rabbit meet on January 1. The concert features an item called 64 Things, in which flutist Roi Amotz, cellist Ira Givol and pianist Matan Porat will play a selection of works, previously chosen from a list of 64 pieces by members of the audience.

“The musicians will prepare 64 works of all kinds,” Dror explains.

“They can be classical, there might be improvisational items or narrations of written works. It should be interesting to see how that pans out.”

Fittingly, the concert will be followed by a discussion about the element of randomness in music.

Elsewhere in the Seven on Seven season there is a rich mix of Andalusian, classical and jazz music, courtesy of pianist Omri Mor and his guests; a look at original music and arranging; and more insight into how Beethoven went about producing classical gems when he could no longer hear his own music. The latter session, which takes place on May 28 and goes by the title Perfect Pitch, will feature the Ariel Quartet playing Beethoven’s Quartet Opus 132. After the concert, Wolpe will talk about Beethoven’s lifework.

The season closes on June 10 with the Derech Eretz show, where Israel Prize laureate poet Erez Biton will read some of his works, accompanied by Wolpe on piano.

For tickets and more information: (02) 624-1041;

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